Everyone has to grow up at some point, and no other anime encapsulated that sense of growth better than the original ‘FLCL’. FLCL was a cult-hit masterpiece produced by Studio Gainax and Production I.G, and it gained massive praise for its wild, over-the-top humor and characters, as well as the gripping metaphorical tale of puberty and adolescence. Over 18 years after the release of the original series, Production I.G have produced the much-anticipated sequel to FLCL, with a third season planned later in the year. With such a revered anime getting a sequel so many years later, it is a pleasant surprise to say that the first episode of FLCL: Progressive managed to properly succeed the original series in a big way.
FLCL: Progressive focuses on two junior high students, Hidomi and Ide, who each represent starkly different sides of the adolescent coin. Hidomi takes on a far more cold and callous approach to the world, barely responding to people near her and donning headphones to block out the noise of the outside world. Ide is far more boisterous and energetic, bragging to his friends about his romantic and sexual endeavors and convincing himself to perform tasks he despises simply to get attention from girls — usual pre-teen behavior. Despite having nothing in common, the pair have managed to acquire the attention of two mysterious women, Haruhara Haruko, and a new character named Julia Jinyu. Not much is known about either woman’s plan, but what is clear is that the two students are in for a world of chaos and robot battles that they never would have dreamed of before.
FLCL: Progressive feels original while paying homage to its predecessor
FLCL: Progressive keeps much of the same comedic elements that made the original so enjoyable, while also delving deeply into the philosophical aspects of the characters almost immediately. Progressive opens up on a dead landscape, with the main heroine literally decaying as she fears for her life, hinting at an incredibly dark end to her journey throughout the series. The chilling scene is then followed up with a walk through Hidomi’s everyday life, complete with the oppressive Medical Mechanica iron, hit-and-run cases, and giant killer robots. Characters are all incredibly endearing and entertaining, with the standouts being Ide’s group of friends, and the dead-pan Jinyu. The conversation between Ide and his friends feels incredibly organic, while still being very entertaining to listen to, and the occasional commentary they have on their homeroom happenings are funny as well. Not much is known about Jinyu aside from her relations to Haruko, but her serious tone and delivery mixed with her many ridiculous actions make her feel like an incredible alternative to the original housekeeper.
That isn’t to say there aren’t also serious moments in Progressive that foreshadow a far greater plot. Hidomi herself is perpetually serious, with her “tsundere” attitude only breaking when under emotional duress. Characters point out that Hidomi is hiding herself away and refusing to incorporate herself with the outside world, claiming she’ll “slowly start to rot away” because of her callous nature. Whether her attitude is a result of adolescent rebellion or an exterior event that caused her to become reclusive remains to be seen, but her nightmare at the start of the episode hint at a potentially horrific end to the world she decided to shut herself off from.
The comparisons between FLCL seasons one and two are more than simply trying to figure out if Progressive is a worthy follow-up to the original, as it directly ties in many references that are hard to ignore throughout the first episode. Certain jokes and story moments are taken straight from its predecessor, with lines that mirror the original and take on a new meaning. While this is not necessarily a problem with the show, as fanservice is always appreciated for a series that hasn’t had any new content in 18 years, it does lead to Progressive feeling a bit safe in its approach. This could simply be the case of Production I.G trying to re-familiarize fans for the first episode, and ideally the next five episodes will tone down on references and blossom into a show that stands completely on its own as a follow-up to the original. While Progressive can continue the story of Haruko and the events of FLCL, there should also be plenty of time and attention placed on the new cast to make them as memorable as the first season.
After 18 long years, it’s almost crazy to believe that FLCL is back on air and all over the anime community. FLCL: Progressive managed to capture much of the quirks and drama of the original series and leave plenty of intrigue and mystery for the show to uncover in its following episodes. The characters are all lovable and comedic in their unique ways, and hopefully that is expanded on in order to make FLCL: Progressive an unforgettable anime similar to the original without leaning too heavily on it.